The Villanova Wildcats returned from the west coast to take down the Howard Bison. A commanding 100-81 win did not feel as great as it might look afterward.
Howard and Villanova seemed to get into a bit of a shootout in the first half. (Someone check if those rims were regulation.) Howard and Villanova combined for 26-of-54 from beyond the arc. Jay Wright and the Wildcats settled into the second half and grew a lead. This game was no walk in the park, but testament to Villanova’s ability heat up offensively and bear down to grind it out and pull away in the second half for a win.
Let’s look at three takeaways from the win:
Everybody can shoot
While Brandon Slater posted his career high, it seemed everyone on Villanova was a threat whether from beyond the arc or around the rim. After Howard’s first splash 3, Villanova went 4 for 4 beyond the arc to go up 12-3. Putting up 100 points, for the first time since 2018 and a clear season-high, was impressive.
The Wildcats saw nine different scorers in this game including 20 points from the bench. From the stripe, Villanova did not miss and was a perfect 26 for 26. Moving forward, if Villanova continues this offensive showing and improves defensively, it will be very hard to beat.
Slater and Dixon continue to take big strides forward
The senior from Centerville, Va. led the team with 23 points, including a perfect 4 for 4 from 3-point range. Slater’s career high in points kept Nova the lead while When Howard came out firing and seemed incapable of missing, Villanova leaned on Slater for the hustle and necessary scoring. Slater was 7-of-7 at the free throw line and converted a huge and-1 opportunity that seemed to swell momentum into Wildcat favor. He was not just lights out offensively, but also on the defensive end, where Slater made some spectacular plays and played a big part in Howard’s 14 turnovers.
Redshirt sophomore, Eric Dixon also made quality contributions so far this season. had nine points, three assists, and seven rebounds against Howard. Offensively, Dixon seems to have poise and high basketball IQ by always finding the right pass and not forcing it. Hopefully, this is just the beginning and Slater and Dixon continue to elevate their game and be quality contributors on this ‘Nova roster.
Freshmen get some time
The Wildcats might have had nine different scorers, but they had contributors throughout the lineup, plus birthday boy Kevin Voigt! Off the bench early, true freshman Nnanna Njoku had a solid putback and three rebounds. Another freshman, Jordan Longino put up four points and two assists for the ‘Cats and led the first-year players with 13 minutes. Trey Patterson also saw four minutes of action.
These freshmen did not get much of a look for the UCLA game, but solid efforts could earn them some time moving forward. When the postseason rolls around, these three will hopefully be ready to step in big ways.
Looking to the future, the Wildcats will face No. 17 Tennessee, followed by another ranked team this weekend in the Hall of Fame classic, depending on the result of Purdue-North Carolina. This won’t be the end of important high caliber opponents as Villanova, next month, will also face No. 9 Baylor and Syracuse (including old teammate Cole Swider).